Eddie Jones has made two changes with Ben Te’o dropped as England get set to face Wales at Twickenham this Saturday. Robert Rees looks at how each side will attack the match.
The big news is that Jonathan Joseph returns to the starting line-up in place of Worcester centre Ben Te’o and Danny Care becomes England’s most capped scrum half. He gains his starting spot following Ben Youngs’ campaign-ending injury.
Ben Te’o dropped, but Jones keeps continuity ahead of Wales match
Eddie Jones has kept with the majority of the side that swept aside Italy in Round One of the Six Nations to face a strong, new-look Wales side.
Jones is fully aware of how Wales will want to play and has targeted Rhys Patchell as a threat, calling him out in this afternoon’s press conference.
”It’s only Rhys Patchell’s second Six Nations start. He is a young guy, inexperienced, he is their third-choice 10. He is going to be under expectation to play it wide. He’s going to be under some heat mate .”
Patchell made a solid debut at fly half against Scotland orchestrating a 34-7 victory. With such a strong Scarlets presence in the Welsh squad and the backline in particular, it’s sure to be an open game. Gatland’s men will look to attack England’s narrow defence that appeared against Italy.
England’s game plan
Jones’ squad is an experienced one with 848 caps in the matchday 23. England will try to use this to their advantage as much as possible, especially when Wales’ squad only amounts to 677.
England’s forwards are set out to be a solid set piece team. England’s back row will have a tougher match against Wales than they faced last week. Therefore, expect the turnover battle to be much better than 13-8 in favour of England.
Their line-out, led by veterans Hartley, Lawes and Robshaw will be used as their attacking platform. It was a staple of their attack against Italy and they’ll look for quick ball and to attack the Patchell-Parkes combination in midfield.
They have dangerous runners and men who can make yards after contact in Joseph, Watson and Brown, but don’t expect too much other than direct running into space and quick hands. England has a big pack. This’ll come in use at scrum time where Wales looked impressive against Scotland.
Expect both sides to give good accounts of themselves at the scrum with few going against the head. Jones will be hoping that their usually stalwart defence recovers to its peak with Ben Te’o dropped following his disappointing game last week. Missed tackles could well be the key to victory/defeat.
Wales will look to attack
With such a fast and furious backline it can’t be expected that Wales will do anything different than the Scottish game. They’ll utilise the Scarlets energy to attack the English defence.
England defended narrowly against Italy and looked like a side who could concede a lot of points if their opposition was clinical enough to score tries.
There were signs of weakness in midfield, especially with Te’o early on. Joseph replacing the Worcester Warriors centre will alter that, but Watson and Joseph were amongst the backline that the Scarlets shredded at the Rec in the Champions Cup earlier this year.
This’ll give Wales enormous amounts of confidence that they can get points on the board without relying on the ever-steady boot of Leigh Halfpenny. Wales will be looking to keep ball in hand when possible to avoid giving Mike Brown enough ball to create chances from.
England home advantage bigger than ever
England hasn’t lost to Wales at home in the Six Nations since 2012 but, they have of course lost to Wales at Twickenham during that time; at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The men in white enter the game having won the last three meetings and will be hopeful of continuing that run of form. Twickenham can be an intimidating place to go for many sides, especially with so much youthful exuberance amongst a squad, but Wales will be looking to replicate their Scottish performance in order to defeat the Red and Whites.
Selection will always be critical, and with Ben Le’o dropped as a consequence of mistakes in previous matches, the stakes could not be higher for all involved….including Jones.
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